Volume 20, Issue 46 - November 18, 2022

Look for Mary Scott Nabers' next column in our Texas Government Insider newsletter after the Thanksgiving holiday.
Pflugerville to begin $146M expansion of water treatment plant

The Pflugerville City Council approved a $146 million contract to expand the city's surface water treatment plant with construction set to begin in 2023 and an estimated completion in 2026.


The plant upgrade will increase water capacity and address damage caused by invasive hydrilla and zebra mussel infestations in Lake Pflugerville. The expanded water capacity will increase from almost 18 to 30 million gallons per day, providing water to 76,000 people with the ability to meet growing water demand for the next three decades.


Improvements to the plant identified in the city's 2020 Water Master Plan include: 

• The expansion of the existing lake raw water pump station. 

• The addition of pumps and motors and a copper ion generation system for the pretreatment of the water and elimination of zebra mussels.

• A new high-surface pump station for delivery of water to the eastern side of the city.

• A new raw sludge pump station for more efficient solids handling.

• A new recycle pump station for a more efficient transfer of internal water.

• A new backwash clarifier.

• A retrofit of membrane filter systems.


The project will be funded by a $24 million loan from the Texas Water Development Board Drinking Water State Revolving Fund; $52 million from the U.S. Environmental Agency Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan (WIFIA); and the remaining $76 million will be funded through cash, impact fees, and city-issued debt.

Texas regulators consider $460M mechanism to ensure electric grid reliability

After 2021 Winter Storm Uri, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas was tasked with redesigning the Texas wholesale electricity market to ensure reliability of the state’s electric grid at a reasonable cost to consumers. Texas regulators are considering adopting a Performance Credit Mechanism (PCM) to incentivize more power generation during peak demand times.


The PCM would set a fixed number of credits to generators exchanged through the state’s grid operator. The credits will be awarded based on energy availability during high reliability risk hours. Utilities would be obligated to purchase credits based on their share of system load during peak hours. This is to provide transparency and accountability of market participants and to ensure providers have a reliable power source to sell to households and businesses.


A consulting firm hired by the PUC released a study that found a PCM would cost consumers about $460 million annually.


The study did not model extreme weather like Winter Storm Uri. The PCM is a hybrid solution of capacity markets and energy-only markets to address growth in the state, rather than solving specific problems that arose in winter 2021.The commission has taken steps to address generator performance failures including comprehensive weatherization standards after the passage of Senate Bill 3 in 2021.


Comments on the proposal are due to the commission by December 15.

Join Ansarada for expert panel discussion on ESG

Ansarada will be hosting an expert industry panel and breakfast on December 8 from 8 a.m. to noon. at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, California.


This event, “Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG): Opportunities & Challenges of Responsible Infrastructure,” will have expert panel speakers exploring the opportunities and challenges in driving ESG initiatives in current and future infrastructure in the U.S.


The integration of ESG into infrastructure projects provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to reduce risks and to demand a change that promotes investment in innovative, sustainable, and resilient infrastructure. This change in industry mindset is gaining traction and many are hungry for assurances about the integrity of ESG implementation in infrastructure projects.


Click here to register for free.

Magnolia ISD set for new facilities, renovations

Magnolia ISD voters on November 8 approved a $228 million bond package for new facilities and renovations to accommodate district growth.


This package included Proposition A, a $228 million bond to build three new campuses, renovate existing district facilities, new buses, upgrade technology and security, and purchase land for future facilities.


Proposition B, which focused on artificial turf for baseball and softball fields, voters rejected.


The bond package was in response to a projected increase in the student population from 13,950 to 14,300 by next semester. In four years, school officials are expecting more than 17,000 enrollments. One elementary school is already exceeding capacity and others are close.


The district’s next priority is building a new elementary school and anticipates it opening in fall 2024. Intermediate and junior high school facilities are anticipated to open in 2025 or 2026.

Saluting Texas' Lone Stars

Dave Porter

Executive Director

Williamson County Economic Development Partnership

Public career and education highlights: 

During my 37 years in Economic Development I've worked in places like Wichita, Raleigh, Asheville, Austin, Orlando and now back to Williamson County. The highlight to date has been my work in the greater Austin region. To be part of and witnessing such an economic transformation over the past 20 years has been fascinating. The Austin region is the envy of my profession. I received my Business Administration degree from Wichita State University and my Certification in economic development from the University of Oklahoma.


What I like best about my public service is: Specifically what I like about public service through economic development is improving people's lives through better paying jobs. For me, it's not about quantity of jobs it's all about the quality of the job.


The best advice I’ve received is: Don't take yourself too seriously, be nice, be kind.


People might be surprised to know that: My uncle managed the Yankees back in the '60s.


One thing I wished more people knew about the Williamson County is: People across this world will soon see that Williamson County is quickly becoming a new center of employment. Lots of economic diversification.

Environmental Analysis on Downtown I-10 expansion in El Paso

The Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) $750 million Downtown Interstate 10 expansion project in El Paso will undergo a comprehensive assessment known as an environmental impact statement to study how the project may affect the environment, local businesses, residents, and more factors.


The project includes adding lanes under the sunken portion of a 5.6-mile section of I-10 and could require the demolition of up to 30 commercial and residential buildings.


The assessment will consider the purpose and need of the proposed project, potential alternatives, and a review of the environmental impact. The assessment is necessary due to the critical location of the project. 


An environmental impact statement requires architects, scientists, environmentalists, and engineers to study a project’s impact on its surroundings. Work on the impact statement will begin this month and could take years to complete, depending on the scope and complexity of the project. Once the statement is complete according to the requirements set by the National Environmental Policy Act, it will be reviewed and approved by TxDOT’s Department of Environmental Affairs.


The first public meeting on the plan and its environmental impact is scheduled for November 30. Construction bids are set to open in mid- to late-2025.

       Changes coming to Hogan Park       

The city of Midland's Hogan Park is a regional park with soccer fields, a softball complex, baseball fields, a playground, and two dog parks. It is one of the first parks of the Midland regional park system and needs updates.


A development corporation partnered with the city and a design firm to add elements like pavilions, food truck lanes, event lawns, covered courts, and open space for future elements like sand volleyball courts that would be added as more funding is made available.


The core amenities to be updated include the Tall City Playground and Pavilion, a splash pad, the main gateway and promenade, a food truck pavilion and event lawn, a large and small dog park, and concessions and restrooms.


The athletic opportunities will include 14 turf baseball/softball fields, including those that currently make up the Bill Williams Softball Complex, four grass baseball fields, eight batting cases, covered basketball and concession pavilion, and an interior trail system.


Future amenities could include five multipurpose fields on the park’s north end, a northside playground, a northside turf lawn, shaded quad playground and seating, four batting cages, three sand volleyball courts, and a loop trail and extension. Upon completion of both trail systems, it will total about 7 miles.


This park is a major construction project that will take time to complete. The intent is to sequence construction based on funding for amenities and to build so construction minimizes impact to areas not currently being worked on.

Updated Parks Master Plan in Richardson

The city of Richardson updated its Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces Master Plan to address walking and biking trails and aquatic facilities.


Major goals of the plan include improving trail connections throughout the city and connecting surround cities, adding natural trails, and trailside and park benches.


The city will invest in a citywide Aquatics Facilities Master Plan to evaluate neighborhood pools and potentially build a splashpad and indoor aquatic center.


The city will implement park and trail signage to mark cultural history and natural resources to display information while blending into the environment. 

Gathering areas like an amphitheater, civic plaza, and lawns will be added to specific parks.


Potential future facilities include an outdoor pickleball court, another dog park, disc course, and a skate park. More updates are expected by early 2023. The final plan will include budget and funding sources.

FTA awards $1.2M in grants for Texas transit projects 

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced 19 awards totaling approximately $13.1 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help boost local economies, fight climate change, and provide more transportation options through development near new or expanded transit project corridors. Texas received two of these awards.

 

These grants, funded by FTA's Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Planning, support local strategies to increase transit access and encourage ridership through mixed-use and mixed-income development near public transportation projects. The program helps communities plan for opportunities created by new transit stations, such as affordable housing, economic development, and better connections to schools, hospitals, stores, and restaurants.


  • The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County will receive $376,000 to plan for its TOD at the Tidwell Transit Center in Houston's Eastex/Jensen neighborhood. The transit center will be served by the proposed METRORapid bus rapid transit University Corridor.


  • The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority will receive $900,000 to plan for its TOD along the proposed Orange and Blue light rail lines and the proposed regional rail Green Line. The plan would set the stage for the agency to transition to a new headquarters and repurpose its current headquarters into a TOD site.
Laredo Convention Center bid rejected, city proposal reopened

The Laredo City Council passed a motion to reject the sole bid received for designing the City of Laredo Conference or Convention Center.


The bid did not meet the submission requirements for the project and the city has decided to put out a new request for proposal.


The proposed conference center will be a minimum of 34,000 square feet and feature both ballroom and meeting space. It also requires having an adjacent hotel with a minimum of 200 rooms.


The original request for proposal was seeking engineering submissions that provided financial models and related costs for this private-public partnership. City staff are focused not only on company personnel but marketing approach, coordination with the city's Conventions and Visitors Bureau, and financial stability.

   Del Valle ISD to purchase 149 acres     

The Del Valle ISD Board of Trustees approved the purchase of 149 acres of land to build new schools. This will include the district’s second high school.


Divided into two parcels, the land is located in the Whisper Valley neighborhood on the north side of the district. The first parcel will be reserved for the new high school that is expected to serve around 2,400 students. It’s a 78.1-acre plot near the intersection of Braker and Taylor lanes. The second plot is 71.1 acres and will be the site of a future elementary and middle school.


The land was purchased for $167,785 per acre and the funding came from a $300 million bond program that was approved by voters in May. The district expects the construction of the new high school to start next year. 

Construction continues for Texas Capitol Complex Project

The second phase of the Texas Capitol Complex Project is underway with two new state office buildings totaling 525,000 square feet being added to the complex.


The plan will extend the Capitol Complex pedestrian mall from 15th to 16th Street, completing the outdoor shopping area that stretches to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.


A new office structure will replace a childcare center and parking lot at the intersection of West 15th Street and Lavaca Street. A second structure will replace the Texas DPS district office at West 15th Street and Congress Avenue.


The second phase of the project will extend the underground parking structure to follow the path of the pedestrian mall to add space for 2,550 cars. Extending underground parking may allow the demolition of above-ground parking in the area and use the land for future building projects. 


The second phase of the Capitol Complex Project should be completed in 2025.

TWDB approves $53M for water, wastewater, and flood projects

The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) approved financial assistance totaling $52.9 million for water, wastewater, and flood projects in the state.


Projects include:

• $300,000 to the city of Melvin for water system improvements.

• $269,608 to the city of Miles for a water supply project.

• $4,613,800 to the city of Mertzon for wastewater system improvements.

• $2,880,000 to the city of Marlin for a drainage improvement project.

• $300,000 to the city of Rising Star for water system improvements.

• $550,000 to the city of Grand Saline for a flood management project.

• $44,000,000 to the city of Edinburg for wastewater system improvements.

Barton Springs Road bridge replacement in works

The city of Austin is considering a full replacement of the Barton Springs Road bridge crossing Barton Creek.


Local leaders have been aware of the upgrades needed to the bridge and are nearing the end of their review of options. Based on a recent engineering analysis, city staff are looking at a total replacement.


The design option the city is leaning toward is a “double Y” pier design. This would not expand the current road structure but could widen to include new bike and pedestrian lanes. It would also offer intersection improvements, a more open waterway, and less risky construction. 


So far, $500,000 has been funded for the bridge’s future with additional funding needed to move forward. However, Austin Public Works Department staff have said up to $1.8 million in bond dollars could be used for initial design services. 


Next steps will involve several months of public engagement and further council briefing to wrap up next fall. The city has projected that design work could continue through early 2025.

(Photo courtesy of HistoricBridges.org)

New Braunfels updates 2023 bond projects

The New Braunfels Bond Advisory Committee is reviewing proposed capital projects for a potential bond election and plan to submit those requests for the City Council to review.


Some of the project recommendations include: 

• Southeast Library Branch - $28.5 million.

• Mission Hill Park Phase 2 - $12 million.

• Faust Street/Nacogdoches Avenue Drainage Improvements - $7.7 million. 

• Common Street Transportation Project - $24.7 million.

• Citywide Street Improvements (19 lane miles) - $20 million.

• Kohlenberg Road Transportation Project - $16 million.

• Barbarosa Road/Saur Lane - $12 million.

• Conrads Lane - $11.8 million.


The bond capacity is $140 million, and the city is not considering a tax rate increase. The City Council will hold a workshop November 21 to discuss project details and hear the Bond Advisory Committee recommendations.


A second workshop will be held December 5 to receive community input. The City Council will finalize project propositions in January and may call for a 2023 bond election to take place in May.

Texas A&M Approves $54M renovations at WTAMU

The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents approved a $45 million renovation of the Geneva Schaeffer Education Building and the $9 million Bain Athletic Center expansion project at West Texas A&M University (WTAMU).


Renovating the Geneva Schaeffer Education Building will make space for additional video studios, production studios, and support spaces. The building will house the West Texas A&M Graduate School. A goal for the education building is to accommodate distance learning through virtual reality technology or still-developing solutions. Funding for the Geneva Schaeffer renovation will include $10 million for health and safety upgrades across campus.


The Bain Athletic Center facility, including the Bain-Schaeffer Buffalo Stadium, is in Phase III of construction.


The university is in the process of selecting an architect and construction company for the projects. The athletic center will house sports performance, sports medicine, sport offices, academic success programs, meeting rooms, and the Hall of Champions. When completed, the center will unite coaches, staff, and student workers currently working in separate buildings across campus.


These projects will be funded by part of a $45 million allotment from Senate Bill 52 for capital projects at Texas higher education institutions and a $2.5 million gift.

College Station considers new recreational center

College Station has considered a new recreation center for years and in 2020 compiled random phone interviews of residents and looked at general locations. Some locations considered included sites near Stephen C. Beachy Central park, near Baylor Scott and White Hospital, and near Fire Station No. 6.


After a recent presentation by the city manager, the City Council directed staff to investigate the location, size, and features of a potential recreational building and explore funding options. The City Council may put out a request for qualifications to find a firm to guide next steps in engaging the community, understanding cost, and choosing a location.


Residents expressed interest in an indoor competitive swimming pool to serve high schools. City officials expressed that a new recreational center should serve a niche not currently met in the community.


The City Council will have to discuss the benefits of opening a city-owned and operated recreational center versus bringing in a private partner to open a facility.

Governor Abbott Names Pate Chief of Staff

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Gardner Pate as chief of staff following the departure of Luis Saenz who served in that position for five years.


Pate previously served as deputy chief of staff within the Governor's Office before joining Abbott's 2022 re-election campaign as campaign chairman. Pate also served as the former director of policy and general counsel for Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen.

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